When Peachtree City Mayor Don Haddix directed the city attorney to write letters seeking to cover his legal bills covered from a personal libel lawsuit, he did not make his fellow council members aware of the requests, according to City Councilman Eric Imker.
In a letter seeking to have the $9,969.40 in legal bills repaid to the city, Imker contends the city should not be on the hook for the funds. The letter, dated May 25, was authored by City Attorney Ted Meeker at Imker’s direction in part because council agreed by consensus May 17 to attempt to recoup the funds.
Despite the fact that Haddix was sued personally and not in his capacity as mayor, he has said he will not repay the money.
A copy of the lawsuit settlement released Tuesday showed that Haddix agreed to pay former Mayor Harold Logsdon $3,000 to settle the case.
The libel lawsuit was filed last year by Logsdon following an email Haddix wrote to a city staffer in which Haddix claimed that Logsdon attended city council meetings while “part drunk.”
The lawsuit was settled in December and Haddix authored an apology as part of the settlement.
Haddix was reimbursed for the legal bills by the city’s risk management company, which in turn had to bill the city because the bills did not reach the city’s $25,000 deductible for legal claims.
That means city taxpayers indirectly paid for the legal defense of Haddix since the city was required contractually to repay the $9,969.40 to the Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Agency (GIRMA).
In the letter to GIRMA, Imker claims that Haddix “concealed” all of his communications with GIRMA from the rest of the city council.
“Any responsible official seeking an outcome to their own personal benefit would have insisted on review and approval by council to avoid any appearance of impropriety,” the letter stated. “Mr. Haddix, on the other hand, acted unilaterally without city authorization, thus giving GIRMA the false impression that the city concurred in his actions.”
GIRMA had twice denied attempts from Haddix to cover his legal bills, based on the fact that he was sued personally and not in his official capacity as mayor. But a third appeal in February was successful in convincing GIRMA to reverse its decision.
When the matter was hashed out at the May 17 council meeting, it was the consensus of council to write a new letter to GIRMA seeking to overturn the decision to fund Haddix’s legal defense in the matter.
Imker’s letter notes that unlike all other situations in which the city is being defended by a lawsuit, Haddix was able to personally select his own attorney and unilaterally make all decisions in the case without any input from the rest of the city council.
“Neither the City Council or the Peachtree City taxpayers had a chance to accept or disprove anything in relation to this matter,” Imker wrote. “All aspects of this case were essentially unilateral decisions by Mr. Haddix. There was no involvement by the City Council, GIRMA, the city attorney or the taxpayers.”
Imker also notes in the letter that Logsdon has said he filed the suit against Haddix personally and not in his capacity as mayor so the taxpayers would not be paying for the lawsuit.